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Daniels, Lee (b. 1959)  
 
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In 2008, Daniels produced Tennessee, directed by Aaron Woodley and featuring Mariah Carey. The film, a road-trip movie about a pair of brothers and an aspiring singer, had some success in the film festival circuit, but had only a very limited run in theaters. With the success of Precious, however, the film was released on DVD in 2010.

Although Tennessee was intended as a vehicle for Mariah Carey to demonstrate her acting ability after her disastrous debut in Glitter (2001), for which she was nominated for an award as "Worst Actress of the Decade," Tennessee may be most significant for bringing Carey and Daniels together, for despite the relative failure of the film, Daniels had no qualms about casting Carey against type in the unglamorous role of a social worker in Precious, for which she earned excellent reviews.

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Precious was originally titled Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire. The title was changed to Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire to avoid confusion with the action movie Push, also released in 2009. Both names, of course, emphasize the novel, though the film is somewhat less graphic than the book.

Sapphire was reluctant to allow her book to be filmed. She had turned down several offers for the film rights to her novel, and was not receptive when Daniels first approached her for permission to film her work. However, Daniels, who claims to have "slept with the book under my pillow for three months" when it was first published in 1996, persisted. Only after she saw Shadowboxer, which she loved, did Sapphire agree to sell him the film rights to the novel.

Daniels' film has received some of the same criticism that some reviewers made of the novel: that the story of an obese, illiterate girl who is abused by her mother and raped by her father propagates negative images of African Americans.

Armond White, for example, described the film as "a sociological horror show" and asserted that "Not since The Birth of a Nation has a mainstream movie demeaned the idea of black American life as much as Precious." Ishmael Reed claimed that the film was really meant for middle-class white audiences, who would be comfortable with the stereotypical images of black pathology depicted in the movie.

Despite such attempts at racial polarization and profiling, Precious has actually attracted a wide and diverse audience. Daniels has defended the movie in the same way that Sapphire defended her novel: he attests to its authenticity. "These are people that I know. This is my family. My movie is the truth. It's absolutely colorless."

Tellingly, two African-American entertainment icons, Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey, who revealed that they themselves had been abused as children, endorsed the truth of the film when they signed on as producers in order to distribute and promote Precious.

Precious is distinguished by extraordinary acting, especially the performance of newcomer Gaborney Sidibe in the title role, comedian and talk show host Mo'Nique as the abusive mother, and Carey as the social worker.

The casting of Sidibe, a Harlem teenager whose only previous acting experience was in a high-school play, came after a series of open auditions in several cities yielded no suitable candidates for the role. Daniels' partner Hopkins discovered her in New York and brought her to read for the director, who hired her on the spot.

After the film's launch at the Sundance Film Festival, where it garnered both the Audience Prize and the Grand Jury Prize, the film won plaudits at the Cannes, Toronto, and New York film festivals. When released theatrically, it was widely and well reviewed, and was nominated for and won a host of awards.

Daniels was particularly pleased that the film swept the NAACP Image Awards, winning Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay awards, as well as acting awards for Sidibe and Mo'Nique.

The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Film and Best Director. In addition, Daniels was nominated as Best Director by the Director's Guild of America.

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